MTA Switches Its Payment System… Debrief

New York, NY–On April 26, 2022, a class of Pace University students gathered to discuss the new tap-and-go payment method, OMNY, recently implemented by New York City’s MTA. After going around the room and sharing ridership habits and preferred payment methods, a discussion began on the several benefits OMNY has to offer, including fare caps, user friendly interface and quick, contactless payments. This shift to digital wallets, however, leave many concerned for those with less accessible resources, including the homeless population in NYC. Questions also arose on the state’s budget and allocation of funds towards projects for the MTA.

Many students admitted they use OMNY as their main source of payment for train/bus fare, either using Apple Pay on their phone or tapping an electronic chipped card–from time to time, MetroCards are purchased (single rides and unlimited passes), while only one person in the class has purchased a physical OMNY card in the past.

Still, the group highlighted the long history behind the MetroCard and its representation of the foot traffic of the busy, bustling city nearly three decades ago. All age groups are familiar with the flimsy, reloadable card that swipes people into the stations; they are used to standing in line and loading their balance with physical money, keeping track of the time or amount left on their card. Considering the switch to OMNY is already more than a year behind schedule, it’s safe to say the MTA’s change in payment methods won’t be easy.

The cost behind this transition is a whopping $772 million, according to MTA Head of Fares Systems, Amy Linden, which Pace students believe should be used in other ways to benefit the city. Some suggestions around the room included more public libraries, faster wait times for buses/trains, more cleaning services across the city and in stations, larger homeless shelters/outreach facilities, proper NYPD training for deescalation tactics and handling the mentally unstable.

Ultimately, the consensus among the class was while OMNY is undoubtedly convenient in this contactless era (post-quarantine), the gradual phasing out of MetroCards may leave the less fortunate at yet anotherdisadvantage in the state of New York. 

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